First off, I appreciate how difficult it must be to travel with a small child. My heart always goes out to the young mother on the plane trying desperately to calm her wailing infant under the glare of the surrounding passengers. I mean, I don’t like sitting in an enclosed space with a screeching baby any more than the next person, but I realize that a baby has no other way to communicate that it’s tired, it’s uncomfortable, its ears are blocked up and it wants to be home in its bed. Heck, if it wasn’t so socially inappropriate, I’d probably screech my way through most plane journeys as well. So I have a great deal of sympathy for the parents of small children stuck in the cramped seats at the back of a plane on long, dark transatlantic flights.
I really don’t need to spend eight hours being kicked repeatedly in the kidneys by the six-year-old boy in the seat behind me whose parents—two able-bodied individuals who nonetheless are incapable of moving around in their seats without yanking on the back of mine and who must inexplicably rummage deeply and irritatingly in the seat-back pockets or overhead bins every five minutes—seem completely incapable of or uninterested in getting him to sit still, shut up and go to sleep like the rest of the passengers, and who instead humor each little six-year-old whim (I want to play. No, I want to sleep. No, I want to play. No, I want to sleep. The light goes on, the tray table plops down. The light goes off, the tray table goes up. The goes on, the tray table plops down. The light goes off, the tray table goes up.), to the point of feeding him several very noisy packets of crisps at 10:00 PM to refuel him for the remaining four hours of the flight, while I hunker down in my own seat wearing eyeshades, earplugs and noise-canceling headphones and try vainly to imagine that I am not, in fact, sealed in a stuffy, pressurized metal tube roaring through the thin reaches of the atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of the night with the Family from Hell breathing down my neck.